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An image illustrating studying design with The Open University

The Design Group at The Open University established the study of design as a subject in its own right. This perspective encourages the study of patterns, processes and practices in diverse design domain settings. It opens up new vantage points to question how design is practised as a creative human activity, promotes innovation and the different ways that the designed and manufactured things around us impact on the world we inhabit.

The research that the Design Group undertakes shares a common concern in design for social change. It seeks to advance understanding of design and innovation’s role in society, to transform lives and challenges the ways that people participate in this change. Our research is clustered around four themes:

  • Design processes
  • Sustainable design and innovation
  • Collaborative design
  • Complexity and design.

Key facts

  • The Design Group hosts the AHRC Design Star doctoral training centre in design, in collaboration with Brighton University, University of Reading and Goldsmiths University.
  • The first journal in design, Design Studies, was founded by the group and we continue to have editorial input.
  • The group is recognised for its internationally excellent research and has been consistently highly ranked across all research assessment exercises.


The group has a suite of design research laboratories and is prioritising full-time research degrees that make use of these facilities:

  • Complexity Science and Design Laboratory
  • Design Observatory
  • FabLab
  • Robotics and Autonomous Systems Laboratory
  • Digital Media Laboratory.

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Dr Emma Dewberry
+44 (0)1908 654138

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.